It's show time for Dodgers and Braves
ATLANTA - It's been a while since either team played a truly meaningful game.
The Los Angeles Dodgers took control of the NL West with an amazing 21/2-month stretch, and were able to let off the gas over the final weeks.
The Atlanta Braves won the East going away, their commanding lead not at all threatened by a losing record over the final month.
Now it's time to get serious again.
They meet Thursday night in Game 1 of the NL division series.
"I don't think we necessarily let up," Dodgers infielder Michael Young said after a workout at Turner Field. "In our situation, we had to get some guys healthy. A couple of guys needed a couple of days off, so we gave it to them. Now we're ready to roll."
Despite having some room for error, the Dodgers are far from healthy going into the playoffs.
Slugger Matt Kemp is out for the postseason with an ankle injury, while outfielder Andre Ethier will likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties because of his own ankle problems. He hasn't played in the field since Sept. 13.
Atlanta was bolstered by unlikely contributors such as Evan Gattis, who made the team as a nonroster player in the spring, hit 21 homers, and paced all NL rookies with 65 RBIs. He's expected to bat cleanup against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA) in the series opener.
Gattis is not alone. The Braves playoff roster is filled with guys who no one would have expected just a few months ago. Journeyman Elliot Johnson, acquired off waivers in August, will start at second base. Veteran pitcher Freddy Garcia, purchased from Baltimore late in the season, is set to start Game 4 if the best-of-five series goes that far. Rookie David Hale, who made two September starts after the rosters expanded, made the bullpen as a long reliever.
"We got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys who, coming into the season, a lot of people didn't expect," catcher Brian McCann said.
There also were some huge disappointments. Three-time all-star second baseman Dan Uggla hit just .179 and didn't even make the 25-man squad, despite 22 homers. B.J. Upton was demoted to a backup role in the outfield after batting .184 with nine homers and 26 RBIs.
With Kemp out and Ethier hurting, the Dodgers are counting on veterans such as Young, Skip Schumaker, and Jerry Hairston to step up. Plus, they have one of the most exciting - and sometimes exasperating - rookies in the game, 22-year-old Yasiel Puig, who batted .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBIs.
"Matt is a great player," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "But we have a bunch of great players behind him."
Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11) will start Game 1 for the Braves.